There is widespread acceptance of the critical role that postdoctoral scholars play in the US research enterprise and the need to continue to attract the best and the brightest. Efforts to enhance the quality of the postdoctoral experience have been widely discussed, with many prominent national organizations and individuals making recommendations for positive change. In articulating an Agenda for Change, the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) is mindful that postdocs themselves are responsible for seeking out postdoctoral training opportunities that lead to the advancement of their long-term career goals. However, it further recognizes that many stakeholders are in a position to implement new policies and practices that would have broad impact in enhancing the quality of the postdoctoral experience. In pursuing this Agenda for Change, the NPA recommends that:
Institutions ensure comprehensive postdoctoral training, together with pay and benefits commensurate with experience, qualifications and skills.
- Adopt NPA Recommended Practices.
- Provide incentives for improved mentoring and consider disincentives for inadequate mentoring.
- Place renewed emphasis on training in addition to research results.
Funding Agencies/Organizations fund programs that promote professional development of postdoctoral scholars.
- Establish standards of treatment and training for postdoctoral scholars on research grants.
- Provide more opportunities for all postdoctoral scholars to compete for funds.
- Support grants targeted at first time investigators.
- Increase the percentage of postdoctoral researchers funded by independent fellowships compared with grants initiated by Principal Investigators.
Government expand data collection on postdocs, and enact reforms that increase the mobility of international postdocs.
- Allow easier entry and re-entry of foreign postdocs into the US; allow greater mobility between institutions within the U.S. for foreign postdocs.
- Expand data collection on postdocs to be more accurate, inclusive and detailed, especially with regard to under-represented groups.
- Re-examine science and technology labor shortage projections.
Graduate Schools expand Ph.D. curricula to incorporate training suitable for non-academic careers.
- Offer specific career guidance and counseling for graduate students considering a postdoc.
- Place greater emphasis in the curriculum of PhD programs on professional development beyond research skills.
- Consider the ramifications of training too many people for too few desirable jobs.
Professional Societies promote professional development of their postdoctoral scholar membership.
- Provide support for, and increased access to, professional development workshops and courses, especially those focused on careers outside academia.
- Define core skill elements necessary for the profession and inform postdocs of the appropriate educational and training mechanisms for obtaining those skills.
- Advocate for adequate federal funding and policies that support the key contributions of postdoctoral scholars.
* top priorities in italics